Thursday, February 21, 2008

Turning six and kissing frogs

Amazing the difference a year makes. One year ago we were recovering from what I didn't know was to be the last of the Boobies Princess Parties (sound the thundering APPLAUSE).

For the act of turning six, we purchased two tiny tree frogs from one of our two our local big box pet stores. Lots of discussions preceded the purchase, as we have all fallen madly in love with Dandelion, our 9 month old Russian tortoise who thinks he's actually from the Galapagos Islands. At least the volume of romaine lettuce and cauliflower he consumes daily would make us think so.

We went as a family over the weekend and the twins pulled themselves up onto a rolling ladder to peer into the terrarium to choose the frog of their choice. Since there were only two frogs and one anatole lizard, the process went pretty quickly. One frog was long, the other stubby. In they went inside what could have been used as a to-go container for soup, but had little holes poked in the top plastic lid. They held their containers gently with sweet smiles on their faces. The stubby one was to be called 'Yahtzee,' probably more for the tone of it than the idea of our family sitting around on family game night playing the game. I did buy Yahtzee a couple of months ago, thinking we would lapse into my childhood, but the first attempt at playing it ended with lots of screaming about the twins being too young to understand the 'rules' and subsequent door-slamming. But the name of the game stuck in one of the twins heads as the perfect name for a frog and so it was - Yahtzee it was too be. The other twin had a more difficult time deciding on the perfect name for her frog. Froggy, Freddy, Cutie Pie, Leapy, Hoppy - all of them were bandied about, but after 30 seconds, the answer was, "I'm still deciding." So be it.

We also purchased some moss, a fake plastic leavy thing and $2 worth of small live crickets, much to the disgust and dismay of our oldest DD, who sighed with relief that Dandelion is an herbivore. FYI - $2 worth of small live crickets roughly comes out to about 20 of the little chirpers, a bargain by any means.

Once home, we set up the all-in-one terrarium they would share and in they went. And up they went right up to their prospective corners, where they proceeded to stay until they both went underground, burying themselves under two inches of substrate material. At least the crickets were active. And at least the terrarium is sound-proof.

Yesterday I panicked and made DH, a bonafide frog expert from his childhood days spent playing on a golf course as his backyard in Miami Beach, to find out if the frogs were still alive. I had spotted the one to be named, but Yahtzee was no where to be seen. This also coincided with it being the twins' actual birthday and I was beside myself at the thought her newly named frog would no longer be alive. I tenderly dug through the substrate, hoping to prod it out of its hiding, remembering that Dandelion buried himself for about a week before he settled into our family.

So DH did his fatherly duty and dug around and YAHTZEE is alive! I have never been so happy to see a small green being in my entire life. I about burst into tears! We all ran into the room and rejoiced, doing a little Yahtzee dance.

For those of you who are wondering what I mean by fatherly duty - in our house that includes cleaning up the cat litter, which was started for obvious health reasons while I was pregnant and which thankfully continues to date. It also includes taking the dog for a walk at night, going into the crawl space and digging up potentially dead frogs just purchased for DD's birthdays.

When I told my normally open-minded mother about the frogs, she reacted so violently that it almost shook the very nature of my being. "Frogs? Disgusting!" I then remembered her growing up in South Africa and frightening tales of locust storms, and that maybe droves of frogs dropped out of the sky as well, like in the film "Magnolia," but it was early for Passover, so I took a deep breath and said, "Disgusting? They're only little tree frogs. What's so bad about that?"

"Where will they live?" she quipped.
"In a terrarium."
"But won't they get out?"
"We'll have a top on it, like we do with Dandelion."
"But that's inhumane!" She shrieked. "Frogs are born to leap."
I waited a long time to answer her. Was my mother some secret agent for PETA? When did she care so much about frogs?

"They're tree frogs, mom. They live in trees. I don't think we will be harming them by keeping a top on the container."
"Oh, well," she sniffed back at me. "I'm sure you know best."

I couldn't believe it. My mother was advocating for free leaping and I had suddenly turned into some heartless frog colonizer. What was happening here - it was like some 1960s hallucination gone bad.
"They were only $10 a piece. The tortoises would set us back $170 if we got them both their own."

Ah, the wonderful voice of reason. That bit of financial news calmed her down and she congratulated me on making a very sound financial choice and then proceeded to lecture me about spending so much on Dandelion. No winning with this long distance call. She then continued to tell me that when she was in high school that a boyfriend used to call her "froggy." I didn't have the nerve to ask her why.
To end on an upbeat note, I am happy to report that the frog formerly known as question mark is now been given the fine name of "Max," or "Maxi." Yes, it is quite possible that the longer, leaner, larger frog of the two is in fact a female. DH has assured me no little Maxis and Yahtzees will come out of this union because frog eggs need water in which to thrive and the teeny water dish that came with the container will not suffice. Time will tell. In the meantime, I just hope that Max/Maxi finds Yahtzee to be the prince of her dreams.

Looking for work and other energy drains

Wow. It has been more than a month since I last wrote. WOW. That is all I can say. This job and career hunt is one exhausting and outrageously time-consuming venture. Pretty much eating up all my creative energy, all my writing energy for anything other than cover letters.

I feel like Charlton Heston, another Northwestern alum, in Ben Hur. Driving a wild chariot with too many horses.

Horse #1 is the horse of a full-time job, one with an above average salary and benefits for my whole family.

Horse #2 is the horse of One Purpose PR, my message and media relations consulting biz that is just taking off the ground and which is what I REALLY want to put all my energy into. But times being what they are, folks are understandably squeamish about plunking down dough for anything, and since my layoff was so unexpected, we don't have a cushion to sit on for too long with this horse.

Horse #3 is the horse of not wanting to do anything except eat buttered popcorn, bon-bons and fill up my Netflix queue or head to the Rockies Spring training camp. Seriously. I could use a long rest and nothing does it like either baseball, chocolate and salt.

Horse #4 is the horse of living the life of a writer. Getting paid great amounts of money to sit and write whatever comes to my mind.

Back to reality.

The thing about looking for a job is that it is until you get one, it is all you do and it is amazing how long it takes for decisions to be made. Mostly this is because the people hiring already have full-time or more jobs and the process of interiewing once, two or three times, plus checking references, takes up most of their working hours.
I recently signed up with a temp agency and had to fill out a skills form, which included math. I'm a writer, mostly because words make the world make sense, while numbers just confuse me. When I was struggling over averages and square roots, I wished my oldest had a cell phone so I could have texted her for the answers. Not a great moment. I did at least ask for a calculator and the receptionist didn't guffaw at my answers, so I suppose I was able to do pretty well, after all.

My parents may scratch their heads, and I know they have to the point of self-injury, as to why I spent so much time chasing after the dream of being on stage. I can safely tell them that all those years of auditions and rejection are finally paying off. I know that if I don't get a job it is not because I am not good enough, smart enough or talented enough. My resume says otherwise. It is because there are so many of us overqualified folks out there that it is a real buyers market and the employers are the buyers. I feel like the house I live in, a sweet 1950's brick ranch house which could use some work, but which has really great bones. And going on job interviews is like being in an endless open house and you know what that means in this market - the house has to be perfect, clean and look brand-spanking new.

Case in point. When I first moved to in the winter of NYC, circa 1988, I would go on auditions for hours. Get up at 6am and come back, exhausted and dejected, at about 5pm. When spring began to emerge, I found a stunning yellow dress that I felt great in. Light, effervescent, like a tulip who could sing. I went to an open call for some show I was not right for and proceeded to sing my little heart out for the casting director, a woman who must have been the inspiration for the grunge movement. I have never seen so many variations of faded plaid on one person in my entire life. At the end of my 32 measures, she looked up from her NYTimes crossword puzzle and said, "That was very nice, Lisa, but DON'T EVER WEAR THAT COLOR DRESS AGAIN." You see, sometimes, you just can never tell what will set a person off either in your favor or against you. I guess this person either had some deep psychological response to the color yellow, or who knows? But what I did know was that it had nothing to do with me.

In the past six weeks since I was laid off, I have probably sent out 200 resumes and cover letters. It's pretty much all I do. I use Monster, PRJobslist, CareerBuilder, YahooJobs, Craigslist, CANPO, LinkedIn and more. I've become a networking maniac, turning every encounter into a possible connection for work or consulting. I'm relentless. In six weeks, I've had three job interviews. This is with more than 12 years of experience as a marketing and public relations specialist with a damn good track record. Is it my hair, my wardrobe? My age? The ever-deepening worry lines forming between my eyebrows? Got me.

Today I went to an interview and pulled out my portfolio, to proudly show off my collection of brochures, newsletters, ads and so on that I have designed, overseen and conceived. When I began to open the flap of my chic-ly black portfolio, I spied a small pink sock stuck in one of the plastic sleeves. I clenched my teeth, balled up the sock and shoved it into my satchel. I don't think the interviewers saw the sock, but it's presence gave me a great laugh on the way home. A little humor to keep it all in perspective. I have my health, my family, our house, a car that hopefully won't die anytime soon, pets and children who adore me.

Because in the end, as the wise ones always tell us, that is what all this is about. This endless job search. Being able to provide for my kids, do work that I love, make a positive difference.

And because I don't know any better, I am foolish enough to believe that something is coming. Something big and real and just right for me.

I'll let you know when that happens.